Kinnikuman (キン肉マン lit. "Muscleman") is a manga created by the duo of Yudetamago, which is composed of Yoshinori Nakai and Takashi Shimada. The manga was published in Shueisha's's Weekly Shonen Jump, and received the Shogakukan Manga Award for children's manga in 1985. An animated series was produced using the Limited animation technique.
Originally created as a parody of Ultraman, Kinnikuman was a clumsy goof of a superhero whose services were only called upon to battle monsters if no other superheroes were around.
Kinnikuman's powers came from eating garlic (ninniku, ニンニク), which would gradually fill the "garlic meter" on his forehead until he could grow into a giant to fight the monsters. His main attack was the "Kinniku Flash" beam.
As Kinnikuman developed, it began focusing exclusively on professional wrestling in which Kinnikuman would wrestle ridiculous parodies of popular Japanese superheroes and their adversaries, including "The Toilet Paper Mummy," a giant hand, and monsters based on things like VCRs and blenderss. The heroes and villains of Kinnikuman were collectively referred to as "Chōjin," (超人) which literally translates to "Supermen". The majority of the characters were made by fans who sent in chōjin character designs or ideas and were then incorporated into the story in various major and minor roles. Notable examples of main characters created in this manner include Warsman and Brocken Jr.
The story involves Kinnikuman (his real name is Suguru Kinniku), a clumsy fool of a superhero, finding out he is the missing prince of the planet Kinniku, known for turning out the greatest superheroes in the universe. Being a clumsy fool, however, he must prove himself worthy of the throne. To do so, he enters into wrestling competitions and battles evil Chojin, ultimately culminating in a tournament between Kinnikuman and five pretenders to the throne (Kinnikuman Big Body, Soldier, Zebra, Mariposa, and Super Phoenix). Many of Kinnikuman's allies begin as villains (Ramenman, Buffalo Man, Asuraman, Warsman), and extremely arrogant heroes (Terryman, Robin Mask, Rikishiman).
A sequel manga to Kinnikuman, called Kinnikuman II or Kinnikuman Nisei was written by Yudetamago, starring Suguru's son, Mantaro, and currently appears in "Weekly Playboy", a men's magazine published by Shueisha. There have been two "flashback" stories in this manga that feature Terryman and Robin Mask, respectively. Kinnikuman II is known as Ultimate Muscle in most English-speaking countries. Plus after Kinnikuman, there was a spin-off series for the character Ramenman, who was a popular character.
A brand new on-going series was serialised at the end of 2011 in in Weekly Playboy News, following the end of Kinnikuman II. This new series follows the original cast, set straight after the end of the original series.
As the popularity increased, an anime came about and lots of merchandising. Amongst the most popular merchandise were the "Kinnikuman Keshigomu": erasers made in the shapes of the Kinnikuman characters. The kids were playing with them as toys and called them "Kin-Keshi" for short. They were subsequently marketed as such, and accessories like a wrestling ring were soon to follow.
The wildly popular Kinkeshi figurines came to the United States in the mid-1980s under the brand name M.U.S.C.L.E., which stands for "Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere". For this release, Kinnikuman was renamed "Muscle Man", leader of the heroic M.U.S.C.L.E. characters, the "Thug Busters," and Buffaloman was renamed "Teri-Bull" as the leader of the "Cosmic Crunchers" (although in a M.U.S.C.L.E. video game released for the NES, the Japanese names of the other major characters were used). The figures were only available in random assortments, and originally were only available in a sort of fleshy pink, but eventually other colors were used as well.
Accessories included a wrestling championship belt that opened up and could be used to carry figures, and a wrestling ring where most of the figures could be squeezed into a pair of plastic clamps and then whacked together using a pair of joysticks. M.U.S.C.L.E. would later inspire a similar American toy, Monster in My Pocket, in which the figures were based on typical western monsters rather than Japanese pro-wrestler parodies.
There have also been numerous Kinnikuman video games, anime, and other toys.
- 1st Kaiju Extermination Arc (1-27)
- This chapter has Kinnikuman protecting the Earth from various monsters in his own clumsy way. This is where he meets Terryman and Meat and learns that he is the prince of Planet Kinniku.
- 20th Chojin Olympics Arc (28-51)
- Supermen from around the world compete to be number one Chojin. Kinnikuman represents Japan against China's Ramenman and returning champ Robin Mask of England.
- American Tour Arc (52-79)
- After becoming Chojin Olympic Champion, Kinnikuman and Meat travel as international Chojin representatives. In Hawaii he loses to Prince Kamehame, who becomes Kinnikuman's instructor and teaches him the 48 Killer Techniques. After that, Kinnikuman is recruited by the World Chojin Association to reclaim control of America from two rival Chojin groups, ultimately leading to a tag tournament where he teams with Terryman for the first time as "The Machineguns".
- 2nd Kaiju Extermination Arc (80-89)
- After losing his title due to an obscure rule, Kinnikuman attempts to return to fighting monsters, only to face rivalry from a Self-Defense group. He also makes a New Years trip to his home-world, where he gains the love of Horumon tribe female Bibimba who follows him to Earth. Kinnikuman also participates in a team of seven Chojin to save planet Rakka from invaders.
- 21st Chojin Olympics Arc (90-121)
- When Kinnikuman is deprived of his champion title, "The Big Fight" is hurriedly arranged. This time Kinnikuman faces another Japanese chojin, Wolfman. Also the Soviet machine Warsman debuts. From this chapter on, it's all wrestling.
- Seven Akuma Chojin Arc (122-159)
- Deep in outer space, Seven Devil Chojins led by Buffaloman break free of their prison and are thirsting for chaos. Using Meat as their hostage, they demand to wrestle the Chojin Olympic champion, Kinnikuman.
- Golden Mask Arc (160-208)
- The Silver and Golden Masks are the symbols of peace for the Kinniku Tribe. When the Golden Mask is apparently stolen, the heroes must battle the Six Devil Knights led by the mysterious "Akuma Shogun".
- Dream Chojin Tag Arc (209-273)
- The remnants of the Devil Knights (Ashura and Sunshine) steal the Justuce Chojin's Friendship Power at the same time a tag tournament to decide the worlds greatest tag team is announced. After being abandoned by his friends one after another, Kinnikuman and Kinnikuman Great (actually Prince Kamehame, and later, Terryman in disguise) form the Muscle Brothers and fight to regain the Friendship Power.
- Survivor Match for the Kinniku Throne Arc (274-387)
- With Kinnikuman scoring such glorious titles as 2-Time Chojin Olympic Champion and winning the Tag Tournament, his father King Mayumi decides to have his son Suguru (Kinnikuman) succeed the throne. Fearing Kinnikuman's Chojin Power, the Five Evil Chojin Gods select "Five Fated Princes" to challenge Suguru for the title. In order to prove himself rightful heir to the throne, Kinnikuman and his friends rise to the challenge.
- Kinnikuman vs Terryman (Kinnikuman Vol. 37)
- After earning his right to inherit his father's throne, Kinnikuman prepares to return to his home planet. Terryman realises this is the last chance to test his strength against his friend Kinnikuman's, so he asks Kinnikuman to wrestle him. Kinnikuman agrees, and the two begin to train like never before. Terryman proposes to marry Natsuko after the match, but then she is badly hurt in a car wreck. She doesn't want her accident to affect Terryman's wrestling and insists that he not cancel the match.
- Kinnikuman's Wedding (Kinnikuman Vol. 37)
- On the night of his wedding to Bibimba, Kinnikuman remains on Earth until he accomplishes one request: one sparring match against all of his Chojin allies.
- Perfect Origin Arc (388- ; Online (Shū-Play Website), 2011-2017)
- A peace treaty between the three Chojin factions (Idol, Perfect and Devil chojin, represented by Terryman, Neptuneman and Asuraman respectively) had been signed after Kinnikuman became king of his home planet. However, a new threat arrives in an era of peace: The "Perfect Large Numbers." Led by Strong The Budo, they claim that Neptuneman doesn't represent the Perfect chojin anymore, destroying the paper. After a battle between one of the Large Numbers (Max Radial) and Terryman, the other Perfect chojin challenge Kinnikuman and the remaining Idol chojin, the latter of which are in medical suspension after their matches in the Kinniku Throne arc, to a single combat survival match. However, while Kinnikuman accepts the challenge, the original Seven Devil chojin, following the orders of an unknown leader, enter the competition, and they are not fighting on the side of the Idol chojin...
- Chojin (超人 Chōjin , lit. "superman")
- A person whose strength and abilities far exceed that of a regular human's.
- Chojin Kyoudo (超人強度 Chōjin Kyōdo, lit. "superman strength")
- Indicates the level of a Chojin's strength, represented in levels of "Power" (ex: 950,000 Power, 10,000,000 Power), although it rarely seems to have an impact on the winner of a match.
- Chojin Olympics (超人オリンピック Chōjin Orinpikku)
- A tournament held by the Intergalactic Choujin Committee (宇宙超人委員会 Uchū Chōjin Iinkai) in order to decide the best Chojin in the world. Currently 22 have been held, but only the 20th, 21st, and 22nd tournaments and the 19th English Qualifying Matches have been chronicled in the manga itself (the latter two appearing in Kinnikuman Nisei). For some reason, they are always held in Japan.
- Friendship Power (友情パワー Yūjō Pawā)
- The power of unity mainly used by the Justice Chojins, but as Sunshine once said "Friendship even exists amongst demons!". In the Dream Chojin Tag Arc, Ashuraman and Sunshine steal it so that the Justice Chojins would participate in the tournament as enemies. Also, during the Throne Arc, Kinnikuman's brother Ataru Kinniku spoke of Genuine Friendship Power (真・友情パワー Shin Yūjō Pawā).
- Burning Inner Strength (火事場のクソ力 Kajiba no Kuso-jikara)
- AKA KKD. Latent power that emerges during a great dilemma. Unrelated to a Chojin's personal power, it adds to their Chojin Power Level and increases it many fold. During the Throne Arc, Kinnikuman has his Burning Inner Strength separated and sealed away, but eventually gains it back. Any chojin can possess this ability, but it is much more prominent in the Kinniku Royal Family, where it is handed down from generation to generation. The Japanese phrase means "enormous strength at a scene of a fire" (note that the Japanese phrase here literally includes a vulgar word and is slightly different from the original one in the language [— baka-jikara] which means the same).
- Chojin Wrestling (超人レスリング Chōjin Resuringu)
- Used by Chojins to settle disputes. The rules are similar to puroresu and mixed martial arts, except eye poking, biting, and attacks to the crotch are allowed.
- They are basically limitless one-fall matches but with no weight classification system. At first referees were put in the rings, but as the series progressed the rulings and decisions were made from outside of the ring so as to not interfere with the fight. Matches are won by forcing the opponent to give up, KO (this often means death), 3 Count Fall, and a 20 Count on the occasion of a Ring-Out. In Tag Matches the elimination of both opponents is usually required, but occasionally eliminating only one is allowable.
- Weapon use and a third man trespassing during a one-on-one competition is strictly prohibited. Techniques that require the ring-post or ropes (ex: Chojin Hanging, Royal Stretch) are allowed, but when the ring-posts are pulled out or the ropes are torn and used against the opponent they are viewed as weapons and therefore against the rules. However, weapons that are part of a Chojin's body (Warsman's Bear Claws, Buffaloman's Long Horns, Prisman's Rainbow Shower, etc.) are acceptable. Likewise, attachments to the masks of masked chojins (ex: Kinnikuman's head fin and Robin Mask's horn) are considered part of their bodies and therefore not an infringement of the rules. The spikes on Neptuneman's vest also seem to be included in this.
- Chojin Graveyard (超人墓場 Chōjin Hakaba)
- Managed by the Chojin Enma, it is the land where the souls of dead Chojins are sent. Through undertaking serious labour a Chojin will receive Lifeforce Spheres (生命の玉 Seimei no Tama), and if four are collected they can be revived (however, this will not work for people who have died from old age or illness). Therefore, whenever a killed Chojin reappears in-story without explanation, it can be assumed that they underwent this ordeal. However, there are Chojins who, while there, simply float around doing nothing.
- Kinniku Clan's Chojin Prophecy Book (キン肉族超人予言書 Kinniku-zoku Chōjin Yogensho)
- Also referred to as Muscle Prophecy. Appears in the Throne Arc. It is a prophecy book written by Kinnikuman's ancestor which tells of the future. It contains information on the Kinniku Clan and all Chojins connected to them. No one can escape from this destiny (the only exception being Super Phoenix, whom Kinnikuman personally revives with his Face Flash technique). Furthermore, if a page from Prophecy Book is burned then that part of history is erased, and if a specific Chojins page is burned the same will happen to them. The first victim of this was Kinniku Ataru.
- Celestial Realm (天上界 Tenjō-kai)
- The birthplace of Akuma Shogun and homeland of the Chojin Gods.
- Chojin Dollar (超人ドル Chōjin Doru)
- The currency used within the Chojin World.
- 'Kinniku Yen' (キン肉円 Kinniku-En)
- The currency used on Planet Kinniku.
- Main Article: List of Kinnikuman Characters
- Kinnikuman vs. Okamarasu (1978, Pilot)
- Kinnikuman vs. Eraginesu (1979, 2nd Pilot)
- Kinnikuman (1979-1987, 2011-present)
- Kinnikuman: Kinniku Flash (1981, Weekly Shonen Jump 1981 Special Issue)
- Tatakae!! Ramenman (1982-89, Spinoff)
- Robin Memo (1984, Special Chapter)
- Kinnikuman Nisei (1998-2005, Sequel)
- Kinnikuman Nisei ~All chojin Dai Shingeki~ (2002-07, Sequel)
- Kinnikuman Nisei Ultimate Tag (2007-2011)
- Great Seigi chojin Rendevous in Kameari (2006, Special Chapter) (Kochikame 30th Anniversary Special)
- Kinnikuman (1983-86, TV Anime)
- Showdown! The Seven Seigi chojin vs. The Space Samurai (1984, TV Special)
- The Stolen Championship Belt (1984, Film)
- Great Riot! Seigi chojin (1984, Film)
- Seigi chojin vs. Ancient chojin (1985, Film)
- Counterattack! The Underground Space chojin (1985, Film)
- Hour of Triumph! Seigi chojin (195, Film)
- Crisis in New York!! (1986, Film)
- Seigi chojin vs. Senshi chojin (1987, Film)
- Kinnikuman: Scramble for the Throne (1991-92, TV Anime)
Reception and Legacy
As of 2008, the original manga series of thirty-six volumes has sold more than 53 million copies in Japan alone. The new series volumes have been also ranked in listings of top manga in Japan. Kinnikuman was a hit as a manga and even more so as a merchandising, inspiring multiple anime series, theatrical movies, over several video games, and a lot of figurines.
Shaenon K. Garrity called Kinnikuman as a "cross between superhero parody and pro-wrestling goofiness". The 2013 edition of Kono Manga ga Sugoi!, which surveys people in the manga and publishing industry, named Kinnikuman the 7th best manga series for male readers.
Real life bouts based on Kinnikuman
Toei Animation announced hosting of Kinnikumania 2009 wrestling event, which would be held at the JCB Hall in Tokyo Dome City on May 29 to mark the 30th anniversary of the book. Kinnikuman went up against Ikuhisa Minowa in a pro-wrestling match. Kinnikuman won the bout. Several MMA fighters, including Shinya Aoki and Caol Uno attended the bout.